Saturday, January 21, 2012

Top Twenty - Show Or Not

Received Argus's Top Twenty invitation last week, the 4th time he has been invited.  The Top Twenty is held with the National, this year in Tulsa, and the Top 20 Dalmatians in breed/all breed competition are invited to compete.  It's a big deal to many, everyone in formal dress, and the dogs all have appropriate music played during their performances.  The dogs come out as a group, then individually, and are judged by a Group of three "judges" whose names are kept secret until the event.  Spectators buy tickets to the event, and the competing dogs have their cheering sections.  Drinks and snacks are served and everyone has a good time.  Most of the dogs enjoy it, although some are intimidated by the non-show atmosphere.

Top Twenty is a big deal to many exhibitors and being invited to compete is often the goal of those who campaign their already-champion Dals during the previous year.

Me?  Not so much.  Because the judges judge to a score sheet rather than just judging the overall dog, the results are sometimes a bit odd.  I've heard many judges say that they ended up giving the highest score to a dog they don't particularly like - which is one of the reasons AKC does not want standards to contain point schedules - but the Dal standard still has one and it is used for Top Twenty judging.

The biggest problem is no accountability.  If a particular judge really likes a dog (or it's handlers or owners) it's really easy to "fix" the judging.  Because the winner is based on an "average" of the three scoring results, all a judge has to do is score two dogs very low, and give the dog they want to win the maximum number of points, and it can easily affect the results.  And it obviously happens.  The person compiling the score is a non-dog person, and no one ever gets to see the ballots.  If the individual scoring was made available (even without any judge names) it would be a lot fairer.  A handler friend of mine who has judged a number of these events in other breeds mentioned that as an option to make things more fair.

I've competed with Argus for the past three years - well actually, Jess showed him the year I had a broken ankle.  It can be an expensive proposition if you have to go out and buy a new outfit you may never wear again, and can be exhausting.  It is also very nerve wracking, not like a real dog show.  

I'd sort of hoped that Argus would NOT qualify for this year as I did not want to have to make the decision on whether or not to show.  He was only shown for a couple of months, but winning a big Specialty BoB pushed him over the top in breed points.

Will I show again? Probably not, but we'll see. Argus is going to compete in the breed ring and the stud dog class, and that's probably enough.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Time For A Change

Went to visit Twin Cities Obedience Club last night to check out the classes and talk with the trainers. I've decided that I'm ready to make a change in where and how I train Argus, and need to find a place to start Letty in Basic Obedience.  Am just not happy with the class Argus is in, and I KNOW the methods used by that trainer will NOT work for emotional Letty.  Argus is starting to show signs of stress and I want to switch to a more positive training method for him.  I prefer to train with treats and a lot of praise, and find almost everything easier to teach with rewards.  Training a dog by correcting mistakes (a traditional method) can work OK, but positive training shapes behaviors. Letty's puppy class used the latter and she responded very well to that method, so I would like to continue with that. 

Argus is a bit soft and quite emotional and doesn't respond well to physical corrections, and there are so many other ways to teach things.  Because he's such a happy dog, and because I particularly love that part of his personality, I want to be sure he doesn't lose that.  It's time to take a step back, re-evaluate techniques, and try a different path with him.  We've been a team for a long time and I want us to continue being a team.  And I want him to have fun.

Met with the Training Director, explained my goals and my concerns, and she will test Argus on Tuesday to determine an appropriate class for him.   They have many different levels of training, which is a nice change from where I am training now.   There are a number of school in this area that use the positive training methods, but TCOTC has been using them for many years.  

I'd like to get back into serious obedience work, since that was where I started.  I've trained at a number of schools, using a variety of methods over the years, and just need to find the right school that uses techniques that are a good fit for me and for my dogs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Puppy Inquiries

Need to sit down and do a Puppy Page for the (planned) upcoming litters.  Lucy definitely and Pauli possibly.  Have not even put together pedigrees yet.  There have been several inquiries the last few days and I need a link for puppy information.  Gone is the day when I put together a Puppy Pack of information and MAILED it out.  How times have changed.  Back when Dals were so popular, I sent out a number of packs every week.  And speaking of pups, "Crystal's" litter by "Bennett" (one of the 5 champions from the Argus/Boji litter) is due this week.  I'm taking a stud fee puppy, so am anxiously awaiting their arrival.

Two stud inquiries for Argus as well, both from people who have been considering him and now need to make up their minds.  It actually amazes me that he has not been used more than he has - and I am even more amazed at the odd criteria some people use when deciding how to breed their bitches.  Argus is a an extremely good sire - and I'm saying that as his owner, not his breeder. (Wish I had bred him too, but at least I was smart enough to buy this awesome dog!)  I'm exceptionally proud of the quality of his offspring and how well they have done in the ring.  Just got word that his daughter "Tia" became Argus's 6th Grand Champion offspring (he has 17 Champion kids already and another who needs just 1 more point), and she finished it in just a couple of weekends of showing, mostly with Specialty and Specialty weekend wins.  Cheeseburgers for all - our dog show tradition when Argus was being campaigned - we now do that when his kids have particularly nice wins.

Just got Argus's invitation for the Top Twenty, his 4th year of qualifying, but I don't think we'll show in it this year as I would rather be in the audience and cheering for his daughter Pauli this year,  Argus will be entered in breed competition at the National, with no expectations.  He's had a wonderful run, with a Best of Breed and 3 Awards of Merit in the past 4 years, PLUS winning the Stud Dog Class for 3 years in a row.  Good dog, Argie.

Picked up two new species of fish last weekend, bred locally.  Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" and Hillstream Loaches (gotta get their scientific name memorized!).  That required some fish relocation and the little Characodon audax "Black Prince" got moved to a smaller tank so the P. taeniatus could have the 20L planted tank.  All seem to be doing well.  Am also waiting for the Limia nigrofasciata to be shipped from Colorado, but not until the weather warms up a bit.  They'll come Express Mail overnight and be picked up at the PO, but no point in taking any chances with fish I have been wanting for a long time.

Really enjoying my iPhone as I check out the Apps.  Too bad there are not Apps for dog walking and house cleaning!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The New Middle-Age

Several readers took offense at the the title of yesterday's blog, and assured me that we are NOT old ladies.  Of course we aren't old as in OLD, but for much of my previous life I would have considered this age to be "old-ish".  Certainly being old enough to retire was once considered old, and I have met many people younger than me who looked and acted OLD.

Am I actually old?  Nope, I am not really ready to be categorized as old, and in fact think I am probably middle-aged, the new middle-aged.  I can still do most of the things I once did, though perhaps a bit more slowly now, and I know I am not as strong as I once was.  But I can still carry 40# boxes of chicken backs down the basement stairs which is one of the little tests I set for myself.  I can still carry and empty the 5 gallon buckets of water when I siphon fish tanks - though probably should stop doing that.  I can still run with a Dalmatian of course, no small feat, but I "feel" these things now, and I automatically grab the jar opener instead of trying to open jars by hand.

My weight is the same as it was 40 years ago, and I still wear the same size clothes, but it's distributed a little differently and I have to eat a bit more carefully to stay at this weight.  I AM more tired at the end of a tough work day and have a bit more trouble dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn.

I've always been forgetful, so that's not much different, although I can't spout off pedigrees as well as I once did, but I continue to challenge myself with electronic gadgets to keep my mind agile.  My eyes and ears are showing their age a bit, but they still work OK.  How lucky I am!

When I have a doctor's appointment I'm always pleased to be able to say that I take no medications other than my eye drops and the nurses invariably comment on how fortunate I am.  And I am!  Part of it is because I take care of myself, watch my weight and get lots of exercise, but part of it is being born with pretty good genes.

Age is partly a state of mind and I do not FEEL old.  I feel just like I always did, so the aging is mostly on the outside.  We'll put off the old lady stuff for a few more years I guess - at least until I can afford to retire!   

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Old Ladies Need Toys Too

This is truly "The Winter Of The Toy" for me.  Three wonderful new toys to get me through the winter.  None of them essential, but all of them quite enjoyable.   First was the new camera, the Nikon L120 which has a terrific zoom lens, something I have always wanted for taking outdoor pictures.  Because my old camera was dying, or rather was wearing out, this was a justifiable acquisition.  I take LOTS of pictures, and red eye is often a problem when taking shots of liver-spotted Dals using a flash.  It's a bit less of a problem with this camera, though not by any means perfect.  The camera was a Christmas gift from Ron, and he gave it to me before Christmas because HE was interested too.

For Christmas I got my Keurig coffee maker which we are both enjoying.  My old coffee maker still works, but it now lives on the top shelf in the kitchen closet and plays "back up".  Of course I am drinking more coffee now, partially because it is so GOOD, and partially because it's fun to sample the different K-cup flavors.  I love this toy, especially in the morning.  It certainly lives up to it's billing.  I don't drink flavored coffee, but will probably buy some of the teas that are available, and will definitely use it for iced tea in the summer.

And yesterday my first smart phone arrived, my iPhone 4S.  Such fun!   I've wanted a smart phone for a very long time, and often feel as if I am the last person on earth still using a regular cell phone.  My cell phone contract was up last summer, but the contract for my little modem (used on my Netbook) is not up until next month, and I did not want to spend much more than my current monthly bill.  Assuming my data package is sufficient for my needs, this should work out about right, and for approximately the same amount of money.

The learning curve seemed a bit steep when I first tried to set up my phone, and I was overwhelmed at first.  Set up never goes quite like the instructions say it will, but I got through that. First I had to update iTunes, which I normally only use for downloading books to my iPod Nano, and read about QWERTY keyboards since I hadn't a clue how to do capital letters.  My hands seem enormously huge and clumsy when I am typing on my phone, and I miss the "real" keyboard on my old phone, but practice should make the difference.  Today I need to download the instruction manual - something like 165 pages - argh.  Hope there is a way to make the font size larger on my email, or I'll probably go blind trying to read the messages!

The most impressive part of the phone (to me) is the camera.  First thing I did was take a picture of Argus, looking right at me.  No red eye!  Amazing!  The camera gets raves, and my first attempt to use it sure impressed me.  I was able to crop the picture and post it to Facebook without much difficulty.

The number of Apps was one of the reasons I went with an iPhone rather than a Droid, and perhaps also the fanaticism of iPhone users.  The only Apps I have downloaded so far are Angry Birds (which I have never played but which is apparently a Must Have), and Facebook.   I can check my email, find my messages, text, useFacebook, and take pictures.  A good start, I think.  Tonight I want to download one of the photo editing software Apps that is available for an iPhone.

Wonderful toys! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday At Home

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ~Martin Luther King Jr. 

This has never been more true than it is today, when it is almost trendy to hate other people, whether they be Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims, Christians, Jews, the unemployed, the poor, the rich, the educated, the uneducated, gays, the obese, the disabled, the mentally ill, alcoholics, the drug addicted, or anyone else that is not "just like us".  It is particularly ugly when political parties endorse these these feelings . . .
The dogs and I have had a lot of fun this weekend.  Letty has gone for two off lead runs and had such a good time racing in giant circles.  Yesterday she met a ball-crazy Chesapeake and ran with her after the tennis ball, but could not understand the appeal of picking up a slimy ball and bringing it back.  The fun was all in the chase.

We had ring time on Saturday, and after a good half hour of training, Argus and I went to the Dog Park.  It was packed when we arrived, but almost empty when we left and getting too dark.  Not sure I would want to be stranded in Rice Creek Park at dusk, as the trail back to the parking lot would be dark and deserted.

Yesterday Argus and I went down to Hidden Falls Park, the same place Laurie and I took Argus & Nikon swimming last summer.   The river is not frozen over, and there were only shelves of ice along the shore.  We watched a brave soul take off in his Kayak, and Argus decided that it must be OK for swimming, or at least walking on the ice shelves.  I convinced him to settle for wading (brrrr) and we had a lovely walk along the river bank.  Because the river is so low right now, we could walk a long way, on a beach that is normally underwater.  My camera battery died, so I missed a lot of potentially good shots, but we had a great time.   Because the park was practically empty, Argus was off lead most of the time.

Argus and I have explored a lot of new territory over the past 6 months, something I have enjoyed a great deal.  There's nothing like an enthusiastic dog to go walking with.  If it's too cold or I am short on time (or feeling lazy) we just walk the neighborhood, but if time allows there are so many adventures just waiting up ahead.

My iPhone is supposed to arrive today!  Hooray!